Feb 2, 2011 21

Rid yourself of unsightly browser tabs [video]

[Watch "Rid Yourself of Unsightly Browser Tabs" on YouTube; 2:29 minutes]

After recording this, it occurred to me that there’s a whole thought process behind using this hack which may not be immediately apparent in the hack itself. So if you’re still confused after watching the video, or if you’d rather skip the video altogether, this written rationale may prove useful.

If you’re like me, you occasionally find yourself with a fat, soggy browser and a million open tabs, wondering how the hell you got there and more importantly, how the hell to get back to the original thing you were working on that had you launch that initial tab in the first place without losing all the good stuff you just found.

And if you’re like me, you probably also know about the convenient “bookmark all tabs in folder” feature baked into modern browsers. It’s great for creating a collection of tabbed windows you’d use for, say, blogging (your WordPress dashboard, Flickr, a dictionary site) or your daily social media circuit (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Reader, etc) or what have you.1

What is less obvious or intuitive or whatever (at least to me) is where and how to save them. And to answer that, you have to look at why you’re saving them. (Note: this is the key, lifesaving question to ask whenever you find yourself doing almost anything automatically, a quick “why” can stop the senseless spiraling-downward, save you a boatload of pain, and start to usher in meaningful changes.)

In my case, I’m usually saving them for two reasons, one “good” and one psycho.

The “good” reason is that in wandering off, I’ve likely found some juicy stuff I might want to read more carefully or share or otherwise implement to make me better/stronger/faster.

The psycho reason is that I am terrified to let go of something for fear of that whole, vague, Depression-born, clutter-laden “But what if I need it later?” mindset. (In fairness, I often have needed something later, and spent stupid extra time trying to hunt it down via browser history or brain-scraping.)

My version of “save all tabs in folder”, then, mimics the time-tested decluttering practice of moving clutter you’re unsure about to a holding area for a certain period of time before pitching it completely. It’s also not unlike what some have called “declaring email bankruptcy”, moving all of your unanswered, saved, crufty emails to one folder and starting with a fresh, new “inbox zero.”

  1. I have one folder in my menu bar labeled “current.”
  2. When I wake up from zombie-like surfing to realize I have 20 tabs open and a column still on deadline, I execute a “save all tabs to folder.”
  3. I label that folder with the date. (I use a built-in TextExpander shortcut to do this: year/month/day, written as YYYY_MMDD to keep things neat and tidy.)
  4. I save that folder as a subfolder in the “current” folder.

Now I have a neatly-marked and organized history of where I was at the moment I wandered off. I usually end up saving the subfolders for a month or so; a little distance makes a remarkable difference in the ability to discern useful from clutter-ful, which is the point. But also, if I did happen to have something immediately useful open, it’s much, much easier to find in the next few days when it’s stuck in a folder with the date, in a place where I can reliably find it. Which draws on another great ADD person’s hack (which was just commonsense Heloise-type stuff before we all knew about ADD): “Always leave your (keys/purse/etc) in the same ONE place.”

That’s it!

Please let me know what you think in the comments. On the video posts, I’m especially interested in reactions and helpful feedback to make these things better. And I’m especially ESPECIALLY interested, because I’m going to teach myself how to actually use all of the great features in Screenflow this year to make better screencasts.


1In Chrome, Firefox: ⌘ + shift + D. In Safari, you have to use the drop-down menu, although if you want to get super-fancy, you can find an AppleScript that does the trick. And if you’re still using Internet Explorer?Please use it right now to download a copy of Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Posted in: The Useful Ones

Marilyn February 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

i love your videos and enjoyed this one, but watching it i realized that my use of tech tools is so rudimentary that it’s basically two tin cans and some string over here. but i hope you’ll keep posting these so i can keep learning. :)

the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I suspect you’re being at least a wee bit modest about your tech savvy. After all, you’ve been blogging a long time—longer than I!

But I appreciate the sentiment behind it. I’m not really interested in tech stuff for tech stuff’s sake—well, a lot of it. And I’m really not in the advanced class. I do like bringing back the one or two not-too-techy things that might useful from my forays into nerdland, though. If you ask me it’s more about the pure ideal of hacking—figuring stuff out, making stuff better—than it is tech stuff, anyway.

Maryse C. February 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

I was using Firefox’s Read It Later extension for a similar purpose, but I think your solution is simpler and more elegant. Will definitely integrate it to my browsing habits :)

the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I did the same thing with Instapaper, which I’ll still do from time to time. But for whatever reason, I was ending up with a lot of stuff there I wasn’t reading, or I just wasn’t reading Instaper. *In* the app—I love using it to strip bullshit circus-ring web pages of all the doodads so they’re actually readable.

Anyway, yes. This cuts down on sheer volume. Kind of a reserve holding area to decide if I really, really do want to read it later.

Fred Leo February 3, 2011 at 5:30 am

Great advice. I ran into this problem a couple of days ago when I set out to create a video.

Do you use Screenflow to create your videos? If so, is there a way to see how you look in your camera while initially doing your interview?

If you don’t use Screenflow, what do you use?

Thanks for your help,

the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Do you use Screenflow to create your videos? If so, is there a way to see how you look in your camera while initially doing your interview?

I do use Screenflow. Not sure what you mean by that second part. Oh, wait—I think I might.

When you first launch, it shows you a window so you can see how you look. I usually run off and apply my eyebrows at this point, so they show up. Also, I’ll move the Cinema Display closer or tilt it, to get the look right.

Amna February 3, 2011 at 7:53 am

Good one! I don’t even know how many tabs I have open in Firefox right now. It’s totally l.i.m.p.i.n.g along and threatening to crash, because I can’t bear to close any of them, and lose them forever!

So your hack is super-handy. Mind-clearing is awesome.

becky February 3, 2011 at 7:58 am

what is the funky little symbol/key that you’re showing before “+shift+D”? I tried the Windows symbol, and that isn’t working…(with Chrome)??? I totally ‘get’ the issue you’re hacking…. so am trying to follow the solution…. THANKS!!!

becky February 3, 2011 at 8:02 am

oops, never mind… I got it! It’s Control+Shift+D (google chrome)… Thnx again!

the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Yeah, sorry. I always forget about Windows. Narcissistic mac user.

Karen J February 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Have I told you lately that I love you, Colleen?? ;)

From one my-brain-just-don’t-work-like-ever’body-else’s to another (pft-pft-pft on their labels!), THANK YOU for the ‘written restating and clarifying’ of the video! For me, a direct transcript is usually less than helpful: “I heard the words you said! ~Why did you string ‘em together that way? or What did you mean by that?”
Great hack, too! I’m not implementing it, just yet – manyotherthings of higher priority, and I don’t want to apply yet-another-bandage to a system (my ‘puter skills and understanding) that really needs major rehab!

Bright Blessings! Karen (in the snow canyons of Chicago)

the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I get the utility of a transcript, provided one has been really clear in the video. Transcripts are great for users who prefer reading to watching video (raises hand).

In this case, I realized after the fact that I had not been completely clear in the video. Barely clear! I’m sure that eventually, the comments in oh-so-kind-and-literate YouTube will all be variants of “No duh”, only meaner.

It would have taken WAY too long to get the video right—video takes forever! This was a relatively easy fix, as writing is fast for me.

And thank *you* for articulating this so well. I suspected that would be the utility of the written portion, but you’ve made it clear it was!

Stay warm out there.

Karen J February 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Hopefully-helpful feedback on the video:
Is there is a way to get the mike closer, without getting the camera closer, too? (If not, your balance is fine right now, between ‘looks like a fish’ and ‘sounds like yur a hunnert miles away’) ;)

I just noticed the caption-notes, too – Fabulous: Multiple-sensory input is a GoodThing(tm) when not over-done!


the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Is there is a way to get the mike closer, without getting the camera closer, too?

Unfortunately, no. I really need a good unidirectional mic and a stand for that. All I have is a Snowball (USB) mic, and that would completely obscure my face, which I think might be distracting. I jacked up the levels—maybe I need to jack ‘em higher.

Kim Kruse February 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Great tip! I’ve long used Delicious as a way to file away great web content that I inadvertently stumble upon while at work so that I can spend more time looking at them later at home. I’ll definitely start using this “bookmark all” option. Thanks!

the communicatrix February 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

For me, it’s the “reduce buckets” thing. I had things saved to read later in delicious, in Instapaper, in my browser. Bah! Too many places.

We’ll see how well this works long-term. I’ve only been doing it for a month or so. And truthfully, many of the pages are less about reading and more about stuff I might want to implement. If I *know* I want to read something, I either READ it, then and there, or stow it in Instapaper. But usually the former.

Karen J February 3, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Oh, yeah – less about reading and more about stuff I might want to implement ~ I like to think of it as “tool collecting”!

Lisa February 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I will try this. I do set out on these journeys, only to return empty-handed and annoyed sometimes, with what I left behind.

shāna February 5, 2011 at 7:26 pm

hey colleen – i just found you through dyana valentine. i love that you put that tip into video format. i actually do the bookmark all tabs as well – you should see my bookmarks directory! though i love clearing out and filing away i wonder how to scan & delete w/out going down the rabbit hole?! that too can become a project for me. :/ step in the right direction for sure!

Josh Adams February 6, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Your psycho reason for bookmarking tabs rings all-too-true. With me it has a little twist–I find myself often with a bad case of FOMS. I didn’t invent the acronym, but I love it. It’s “Fear of Missing Something,” and I get it not only in the “I’ll read that later” sense you write about (I have to clear out my bookmarks every week), but in every aspect of my life. I often find myself in meetings or large groups tuning out the person who is talking to me in deference to a nearby conversation that I think may be more interesting. As I get older, I get less good at doing this, and sometimes find myself missing everything instead.

I loved this post.

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